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How to Use a Guitar Pick

Sep 3, 2008
Regardless of whether you are a guitar novice or already have some training in playing the guitar, the following guidelines will prove useful. You shall be told how to properly hold a pick (plectrum). "That's ridiculous!" you may say. "It's so very basic, what's there to know?" But following my instructions could help you improve your guitar play quickly and easily.

Picks used to be earlier made from animal bone or tortoise shell, but nowadays they are mostly made of plastic. They come in various sizes and shapes. I recommend beginners to use medium size picks because these are the easiest to play with. This is of course only a suggestion, a general rule of thumb and not an absolute. You might experiment with picks of different shapes, sizes and materials to find out the one most suitable for yourself. Also because picks get easily frayed and perhaps, as easily lost, it is a good idea to keep quite a few picks with you at home. Having a few picks in reserve is not difficult as they are fairly cheap.

Let me now tell you the proper way to hold a pick. In the following guidelines, I shall assume that you are a right handed guitar player, i.e. you hold the pick with your right hand.

The first step is to hold out your right hand and stretch out the palm with its face open towards the left side of your body. Now lightly clench your fingers onto your palm and place the thumb on the upper side of the first (the biggest) joint of your index finger. Next place the pick into this gap between your thumb and index finger and hold it firm. Do not hold it very tight. Also be careful not to hold either too much or too little of the pick. You should leave uncovered just enough of the tip of the pick for you to strum the strings.

Then try to strum the strings slowly one by one, upwards and downwards. Your aim would be to generate clear and sharp notes. In the beginning the pick might just slip from your fingers. Do not be frustrated. Use this exercise to determine exactly how strong your grip on the pick is required to be and how much of the pick is required to be left free. Remember: you can acquire your own rules only with practice.

As for the rest of your fingers apart from the thumb and the index finger, you can position them in two ways. You can either keep them in a curled grip or you can leave them loose. Personally, I prefer to leave them loose and extended, because these can then be used for several different purposes. As you gradually acquire more advanced guitar playing skill, you could use these free fingers to pluck the strings at the same time as you use the pick. You can also use these fingers to tap a beat on the body of the guitar, or to use the tremolo mechanism, as also to adjust the volume of your electric guitar.

Apart from this, there are three other ways to hold the pick. Although I personally would not recommend them, you might find that those methods suit you better.

Some people hold the pick between the thumb and the middle finger. This method allows you to hold the pick firmly and steadily but it makes it difficult for you to use your remaining fingers to strum properly when you require. Alternatively some people place the thumb on the second joint of the index finger to grip the pick. Although this, once again, allows a strong grip, it reduces the flexibility of the picking. And finally, some people use the thumb, the index finger and even the middle finger all together to hold the pick. In this method, since you take up one additional finger to hold the pick, you have only two free fingers to pluck the strings which could possibly handicap your style and make it unsuitable for the more difficult guitar scores.

I hope that following my guidelines for holding a pick will prove effective and beneficial for you. I am sure that if you can practice keeping my advice in mind, you shall find playing the guitar that much easier and more productive. Happy playing!
About the Author
You can find a wide range of Jackson Guitars at the author's online store, including Jackson Soloist, Dinky, Kelly, King V, Rhoads and many others at fantastic prices.
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